(2003 'Sanctuary') (47:40/12) Eher sanfte Töne von den ehemaligen Vorreitern des Punk/Blues / rather quiet notes from what used to be the band on the forefront of punk/blues. JOHN POPPER - vov/hca, CHANDLER KINCHLA - gtr, BEN WILSON - kbds, TAD KINCHLA - bass, BRENDAN HILL - drums.
For every moment of transcendent groove, the jam-band ethos seems to have generated an eon of aimless instrumental indulgence. It's a mindset that bedeviled even icons like the Grateful Dead
when they endeavored to construct something as elegantly--and elusively--simple as a song. Blues Traveler has hardly been immune from the foibles of excess, which makes this focused, song-oriented album an instant career high point. It's no mean feat to be both disciplined and adventurous but, with the able assistance of veteran producer Don Gehman, that's just the trick John Popper and company have turned here. For his part, mouth harp virtuoso Popper makes more like the Stax horns than Satriani
, often content to punctuate his band's ever potent rhythms with flourishes as earthy as they are saturnine. But the real news here is the band's rededication to songcraft, an ethos that yields gems from the Little Feat
dynamic of "Eventually" and jazz/R&B touches of "My Blessed Pain" and "Thinnest of Air" to the muscular pop hooks of "Let Her & Let Go" and rewarding funk-meets-classicism of "This Ache." It's a tack that's challenged Popper to warm new dimensions of vocal expressiveness as well, and the band to focus its powerhouse abilities into a gritty wallop. --Jerry McCulley